Natural sugars are sugars found in fruit and dairy products. As the word implied, these sugars are found naturally, and are not refined. For example, a freshly grown apple contains about 19 grams of natural sugar before it is ever touched by humans.
On the other hand, refined sugars are processed. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are extracted. Once extracted, they are refined to ensure the sugar is uniform and consistent. An example of this is the white sugar that is added to every fast-food dessert. It has gone through so many processes that it no longer has naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
A major difference to consider is the time it takes for your body to absorb sugar. Natural sugars take much longer for your body to digest then refined sugar. As you have probably experienced, refined sugars create sugar highs, where you are able to get a burst of energy that eventually comes crashing down. On the other hand, natural sugars are digested slowly as your body extracts the other minerals from the sugar. Overall, digesting sugar slowly is healthier and helps you metabolism remain consistent.
What about Added Sugar?
In an effort to bring greater awareness to this, the FDA now recommends that labels on food tell you the amount of “added sugar.” Added sugar, is refined sugar that is added to a food or drink. Naturally occurring sugars would not be included in the total “added sugar” of a product. According to the CDC, an adult should generally consume 2,000 calories in a day, and only 10% (or 200 calories) of that recommendation should come from sugar. Because added sugars are so common, most people exceed that recommendation by a lot.
To much refined sugar can result in a variety of health problems like obesity, heart disease, cancer, tooth decay, skin problems, and so much more. For this reason, it is important to read labels and be cautious of how much sugar you are consuming. Luckily, natural sugars are increasingly available at grocery stores and online. These help to curb the health problems that come from sugar, and give people the opportunity to get sugar, and the nutrients that should accompany it.
Examples of Natural Sugar
Now that we know the difference, let’s name a few different types of natural sugars that have become increasingly available.
- Stevia is a sugar made from the leaves of a stevia plant.
- Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables.
- Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is commercially produced from birch bark and corn cob.
- Monk Fruit Sweetener is made from the juice of a monk fruit.
- Allulose is a naturally occurring sugar found in figs and raisins.
Each of these sugars can be a great addition to any kitchen and have many nutrients that make them a healthier choice when baking, cooking, or snacking. These natural sugars though, often have specific ways they are best used. We won’t look at all of these, but let’s consider the attributes of a few.
Xylitol tastes sweet, just like sugar, but it also has a few benefits that refined sugar doesn’t have. A large side effect of sugar is that it causes tooth decay. On the other hand, Xylitol does not cause tooth decay because it reduces the levels of bacteria in your mouth. Partly due to this, xylitol is often used in chewing gum and mints.
Xylitol is not the best replacement sugar for cooking. It is almost impossible for xylitol to caramelize, and so it will not become a liquid as you cook with it. It can work really great though in cakes or other things that are baked, or just used as a sprinkle for cereals or other dishes.
Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is almost 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. Most other sweeteners on the market today are well-known by their odd aftertastes, but monk fruit sweetener has little to no aftertaste and it is super low in calories. Monk fruit is also a very stable sugar, making it a great option for baking.
It also has many health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties. It also doesn’t affect your blood sugar levels, or cause cavities in your teeth. Plus, a small amount of monk fruit sweetener goes along way.
Allulose is found in small quantities in nature and is also a zero-calorie sweetener! This makes it great for being on a low calorie, or low carb diet. Just as the other sugars mentioned, it behaves really well when used to bake. Additionally, it is also a great replacement sugar option for ice cream!
Allulose if known for making slightly crumbly cookies that brown really fast. It also works really well for liquids like caramels and creamers. Most of the time, it is use in conjunction with another natural sweetener like monk fruit or erythritol.
As you have come to see, there are many different options for sugar other then the basic sugar you find at any grocery store! A major divide has occurred in the world of sugar, and all the new options will provide you with more natural and wholesome food. Natural sugars are a great replacement that make it possible for you to maintain a diet, have a healthy lifestyle, and still eat some of your favorite foods.